Almost everyone I'm in contact with through business is on LinkedIn these days (and if you're not, you should be). It's a brilliant, professional, online business networking site and a place where you're expected to promote yourself through your own profile and other areas of the site. Having said that, I constantly hear people moaning about things their connections do that really annoy them.
Since my post on 18 things you should not do on Twitter was so well received, I thought I'd share my candid thoughts on what you should avoid on LinkedIn.
- Don't lie: you will be found out. And it will be embarrassing. After all, look what happened to former Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson.
- Don't send an invitation to connect stating that you're a "friend" if you don't know the person. People hate it and won't accept.
- Don't be lazy when sending invitations to connect. I get really irritated when people can't be bothered to write a customised message to me when asking to connect. It makes me think they're just trying to connect with as many people as possible, rather than looking to nurture a professional relationship. Unfortunately, some LinkedIn pages, such as "People you may know" (and when users are on iPads or smartphones), LinkedIn sends invitations to connect, without giving people the opportunity to customise their message. LinkedIn should fix this.
- Don't forget to read a person's profile before sending them a personal message to connect. Don't send the same message to everyone. True story: I received an invite to connect with a message asking to meet me for a coffee to explore a potential partnership. When I wrote back saying "What do you mean by potential partnership?" the person wrote back, apologising and admitting that they didn't read my profile properly. I guess no coffee, then?
- Don't use a logo as your profile image. No exceptions. LinkedIn is a professional networking site — people to people, not people to logos. There is a different place on LinkedIn to add your company logo and overview called Company Pages. Here's an example of Firebrand's company page.
- Don't use anything other than your full name on your profile. There's an option to use your first name only, with an initial for your family name, but why would you do that? It looks suspicious. I've seen spammers do this often. And while I'm on the subject, don't change your privacy settings to "anonymous" when you're looking at other people's profile. It makes them feel like someone is stalking them.
- Don't boast too much. Although LinkedIn was primarily built as a business networking tool, no one likes to see you constantly talking about yourself or your company. Every now and then is OK. Like other "social" sites, sharing interesting information you've found is appreciated – even if you didn't write it yourself. And don't forget to credit your source.
- Don't overdo your status updates. Your status updates appear in the newsfeed of all your connections, so if you constantly add status updates through the day, it's going to annoy those who are regularly on LinkedIn. My personal recommendation would be a maximum of three per day – spaced out over time. Try using the Buffer App to schedule your updates if necessary.
- Don't add ALL your tweets to your LinkedIn status update. If you share all your tweets on LinkedIn during the day, we get back to my point about over-sharing updates and it will irritate your connections. Secondly, many tweets will contain people's Twitter handles, or hashtags: this might irritate people. Having said that, LinkedIn can pick up '@' handles and link them to Twitter profiles, while hashtags may show up in LinkedIn searches, which can be quite handy. However, my advice is to make an effort to customise what you'd like to say on LinkedIn to encourage engagement and sharing.
- Don't post links or your updates to every single group you belong to. Think about what you are posting and decide which groups would be interested in what you have to say or joining in a discussion. Warning: many groups don't like members posting links to other blogs/websites. It comes across as a promotion masquerading as discussion. Some prefer pure discussions/questions. Have a read of the group rules to make sure what you are posting is appropriate.
- Don't forget to check your spelling and grammar. Think of Twitter as a "cocktail party" and LinkedIn as a business conference and customise your messages accordingly. On LinkedIn, you are expected to use good grammar and not make spelling mistakes. And using "u", "r" or "gr8" doesn't cut it. You can get away with this a little on Twitter because of the character limit, but trust me – you will be "professionally" judged on LinkedIn.
- Don't believe all LinkedIn recommendations. Seriously, at the best of times, LinkedIn recommendations are dodgy. To quote Firebrand CEO Greg Savage in a post he wrote on LinkedIn: "How can we possibly take LinkedIn recommendations seriously when they are mostly solicited, reciprocal, and worst of all, self-published! If you don't like what they say, even in nuance, you don't approve it." Savage says recommendations tend to be a "tit-for-tat recommendation love-in" — simply reciprocal requests. If you're doing a reference check on someone, don't go by their LinkedIn recommendations; call their referees instead and ask all the right questions.
- Don't add a connection's email address to your email database without asking permission. Just because they agree to connect with you, it doesn't mean they want to receive your email marketing. They will report you and your company as a spammer. Likewise, don't treat LinkedIn as an email database and email your connections every bit of news you can think of. They will remove you as a connection.
Carolyn Hyams is the global marketing director for Firebrand Talent Search, responsible for Firebrand's brand strategy and execution in the UK, Europe and Asia-Pacific.